Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Is There a Different Between the Narrow Neck and the Narrow Pass?

Many struggle with the four main areas often referred to as only the “narrow neck of land,” which is described in four different ways in seven different scriptures: 
1. Small Neck of Land (Alma 22:32)
2. Narrow Neck of Land (Alma 63:5, Ether 10:20)
3. Narrow Pass (Alma 52:9, 50:34; Mormon 3:5)
4. Narrow Passage (Mormon 2:29)
Top: Examples of a narrow neck between two larger land masses; Bottom: Examples of a narrow pass or passage
    With just a cursory reading of the scriptural record, one might be led to think these are different areas, while a more diligent reading shows they are not. However, because some people use the terms interchangeably, while others question whether they are two or more separate locations, let’s take a further look at the scriptural references to see if these statements all describe a single area, or whether more than one area is involved.
    As an example, we first must look to see if the three areas of Bountiful, Desolation and the narrow neck intersect. That is, is there one or more avenues or ways to get from the Land Southward into the Land Northward—is there more than one location where the two lands are connected? We also need to recognize that nearly all the important landmarks in the northwestern corner of their lands are mentioned in this scripture: 1) the west sea, 2) the land of Bountiful, 3) the land of Desolation, and 4) the narrow neck which led into the Land Northward. So how are each of these described in the scriptural record?
• “And thus the land of Nephi and the land of Zarahemla were nearly surrounded by water, there being a small neck of land between the land northward and the land southward” (Alma 22:32—emphasis mine).
To be nearly surrounded as shown in the example (left), means that some land kept the Land Southward from being completely surrounded. That land Mormon describes as a small neck of land. It should also be kept in mind that the Nephites of this period obviously had no access to aerial photos or satellite images—what they saw was from a standing position along the coast, or inland, and that view had to show the land was narrow, i.e., that is was both noticeably narrower than the land on either side, and that the narrowness was distinct enough to be seen from their vantage point in 600 B.C. to 421 A.D. It did not have to be an hourglass shape, but the narrowing had to be significant, with an inlet, bay, or other condition that actually separated the land at that point, except for a “small” and “narrow” neck of land.
• “And it came to pass that Hagoth, he being an exceedingly curious man, therefore he went forth and built him an exceedingly large ship, on the borders of the land Bountiful, by the land Desolation, and launched it forth into the west sea, by the narrow neck which led into the land northward” (Alma 63:5 – emphasis mine).
Nearly all the important landmarks along the West Sea in the in the northwestern corner of the Land Southward are mentioned in this scripture: 1) the west sea, 2) the land of Bountiful, 3) the land of Desolation, 4) the narrow neck which led into the Land Northward, and 5) A sea path for a ship to head northward after launching. The following scriptural references address these areas and similarly describe the location for the narrow neck of land.
• “And they built a great city by the narrow neck of land, by the place where the sea divides the land” (Ether 10:20 emphasis mine).
This describes the incut of the ocean and/or a narrowing of the land on one or both sides of the narrow land mass, i.e., the narrow neck. This incut or narrowing must be significant enough for a land-based individual to see that it exists with the naked eye and his line of sight.
• “And he also sent orders unto him that he should fortify the land Bountiful, and secure the narrow pass which led into the land northward, lest the Lamanites should obtain that point and should have power to harass them on every side” (Alma 52:9—emphasis mine).
Now, this narrowing area had to be narrow enough to provide a simple and meaningful military “choke point” that could be easily defended by part of an army. It also had to be a singular entrance into the Land Northward in order to guard it against an enemy flanking a defensive position and obtaining the north country from some other area. In addition, while those who were in Bountiful and the northern area of the Land Southward, this narrow pass led into the Land Northward, however, for those living in the Land Northward, they would have viewed this narrow pass as leading into the Land Southward, as is stated by Mormon:
• “And it came to pass that I did cause my people that they should gather themselves together at the land Desolation, to a city which was in the borders, by the narrow pass which led into the land southward. “ (Mormon 2:3—emphasis mine).
This is obviously understood in the time frame Mormon writes it, for the Nephites at this time had been driven out of the Land Southward by the ever pressing-northward Lamanites, for in the earlier verse, we learn that:
• “And in the three hundred and fiftieth year we made a treaty with the Lamanites and the robbers of Gadianton, in which we did get the lands of our inheritance divided. And the Lamanites did give unto us the land northward, yea, even to the narrow passage which led into the land southward. And we did give unto the Lamanites all the land southward” (Mormon 2:28-29—emphasis mine).
It seems obvious from these scriptures that Mormon used these terms, “small neck,” “narrow neck,” “narrow pass,” and “narrow passage,” as terms describing the exact same area, however they were not interchangeable terms, since “neck of land” describes a land mass, and “narrow pass” or “narrow passage” describes the way through or across the land mass.
    That is, there was a narrow neck of land between the Land Southward and the Land Northward, that was both small (in overall size and length) and narrow (in width), and within that narrow neck of land was a narrow pass that allowed people to cross from the Land Southward to the Land Northward and back. It should also be noted that this was the only was between these two lands, through the narrow pass, across the small or narrow neck of land.
    Now, once understanding this, we can turn to another feature of this narrow neck and that is Mormon’s description of how long a man walking would take to cross through it. That is, its width, from the east to the west, and from the Land Southward to the Land Northward, and that was one day and a half. It is also important to keep in mind why Mormon described this distance in this manner, and to whom he was describing it.
Let’s say you lived in Provo during the early Pioneer days and someone approached you traveling into Provo from the south and asked you where Salt Lake City was located. You might have said, “Just around the point of that mountain to the north and then a way,” or, noting he sat on the box of a wagon drawn by two oxen, you might have said, “It’s about two more days and a bit to the north of here.” Today you would answer, “It’s about an hour north of here.” But let’s say you were trying to write that to a future people who would not live for 1800 years. What would they use for travel? A bicycle? On horseback? A 1928 Essex or a Model T Ford? Or maybe a Lamborghini or rocket sled? What if they could fly? Not knowing, how would you tell them the distance? Would they understand a “mile,” “kilometer,” or “meters”? Since there are “land miles,” “air miles,” “statute miles,” or “nautical miles,” it might be hard to be specific—in addition, there might be other meanings for “miles” in the future, as there was in the past between English mile, Roman mile, Arabic mile, or European mile. For example, the Norway and Sweden mil is 6 miles, and 100 Portuguese milha (mile) is 26 ½ miles longer than 100 American miles.
    What if a neighbor, a Russian immigrant, said it was 34,000 sazhens, or about 68 verstas? Or a Croatian told you it was six-and-a-half miles, or a Dane told you it was nine-and-a-half miles, or a Scot told you it was 40 miles, would you know that all four of these distances were the same as 45 American miles?
    The point is, there was no language Mormon could have used that we would be able to interpret as he meant it other than what a normal normal walking man (a Nephite) could cover in a certain length of time. Thus Mormon tells us the neck could be crossed by a Nephite in a day and a half. He did not mean a running, riding, or boating man—nor did he mean by someone who was a professional runner, a military courier, marathon runner, or some record-breaking athlete. He meant a normal, average man, in order to convey to us how far or wide was the narrow neck of land, since men throughout time had always been pretty much the same and walking was pretty much a normal and constant method of moving. Otherwise, there was no point in his making the comment in the first place.

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